This year, the decision is a difficult one. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton come down pretty squarely in support of issues typically supported by Democrats. However, there are some differences between the two and we discuss their positions on specific issues on the next page.
Here, we’ll get down to what most people identify as the major differences between the two, and what’s their approach to getting things done. In this case, the choice is between two distinct approaches to change. Bernie is calling for a “political revolution.” Hillary’s approach is to improve the system. She’s embracing the label of “insider,” declaring that she knows “what it takes to get things done.”
Consider the two on race and crime. Sanders called American’s criminal justice system “broken” and riddled with “institutional racism.” Hillary called for “following the recommendations of the commissioner that President Obama empanelled on policing. There is an agenda there that we need to be following up on.
Sanders’s call for a political revolution is at the core of his political appeal. Progressives don’t just love him because his policy proposals are more left wing than Hillary’s. They love the fact that he calls America’s political and economic system corrupt. Sanders promises to get things done because he is relying mostly on small-dollar contributions, so he wouldn’t be beholden to the moneyed interests that he believes are poisoning the current political system.
For many, “socialism” is just another way of saying you want to tear down the existing order and build something better in its place.
But if his call for a revolution is key to his success, it may also put a ceiling on it. As angry as many liberals are about economic inequality, the Democratic Party is today in a far less insurrectionist mood than the GOP. Republican presidential candidates routinely bashed John Boehner, to wild applause. If a Democratic candidate attacked Nancy Pelosi, liberals would think he or she were nuts. And Democrats still really like Barack Obama.
That’s why, during the debate, Hillary hugged Obama so close. She played to the fact that while Democrats think some big things in America are fundamentally wrong, they also believe their leaders are trying to make things better. Under Obama, in fact, they believe that things have gotten better.
One reason Hillary couldn’t beat Obama in 2008 was that after George W. Bush, she didn’t seem to be offering big enough change. But now that she’s running to succeed a president most Democrats like, her inside-the-system, incremental approach enjoys more appeal.
Bernie Sanders, like Donald Trump, can only win if a plurality of primary voters want to turn their country, and their party, upside down. A few months ago, no one would have believed it would work for Trump, but he’s proving them wrong. Maybe Bernie can do likewise.